Not Taking bin Laden's Side

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Editor, The Herald:

I refer to Nicholas Kristoff's piece that appeared in your newspaper on Friday, September 3, 2010.

First of all, at this point in time the views of Osama bin Laden are of no consequence whatsoever, because right thinking people know what he stands for, period. Second of all, Muslim clerics are plentiful in America and can, if they so wish cite the Quran to denounce terrorism from any Mosque in the nation for all and sundry to hear. They do not have to do it from “two blocks away” from the hallowed ground in Manhattan whether it is a “huge mosque” or a “YMCA” like building. Modem technology allows the rapid transmission of news through our airwaves without fear or favor. And it is reasonable to say that all knowledgeable Americans fully realize that America is not at war with Islam but with the fringe elements that espouse the belief that all “Infidels” the world over should be subjugated by whatever means possible.

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No one is disputing the fact that the law of the nation gives the owners of the property every right to erect a structure near ground zero so long as it does not contravene the applicable building codes and by laws.

Why is it so hard to understand and empathize with the sentiments of thousands of ordinary citizens who lost loved ones on 9/11 on that location in New York City? Pray tell me Mr. writer, how many decent Americans, have been so horribly burnt to death by owners or patrons of “shops, bars, liquor stores, the New York Doll's Gentlemen's Club and the Pussycat Lounge” located in the neighborhood of the now obliterated World Trade Center? I am prepared to wager that not even the coreligionists of the aforementioned had anything to do with such a dastardly act. By the same token, it is a sad fact that the people who perpetrated the holocaust in the Big Apple on that fateful day were chanting the very Faith of those who want to erect the proposed edifice there. It will probably take a generation or longer before these sad memories can be at least partially erased from the minds of the loved ones. It is possible that the opposition as exists at this time will not occur then, but to expect it to cease right now is unthinkable.

Even if “so many Republicans” did find the entertainment outlets located close to ground zero undesirable, are they expected to try and remove them–even if they have been in existence there long before the horror of 9/11? Is this for real? The author says that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan “are open minded and have been strong advocates for women within Islam” While there is no credible reason for anyone to doubt such an assertion, that positive alone does not negate a multitude of other less than noble attributes highlighted by a prominent Muslim speaker and author, Dr. Tawfik Hamid – in a major US newspaper a few days ago-which reads as follows: ” Radical Islam is not limited to the act of terrorism; it also includes the embrace of teachings within the religion that promote hatred and ultimately breed terrorism. Those who limit the definition of radical Islam to terrorism are ignoring – and indirectly approving of – the Sharia teachings that permit killing apostates, violence against women and gays, and anti Semitism.”

Mr. Hamid goes on to say “Moderate Islam must not be passive. It needs to actively reinterpret the violent parts of the religious text rather than simply cherry-picking the peaceful ones. Ignoring, rather than confronting or contextualizing the violent texts, leaves young Muslims vulnerable to such teachings at a later stage in their lives.”

Mr. Mansoor Ijaz, an American Muslim who was educated at Harvard and MIT and has “lived the American dream” has this to say about Imam Rauf and his supporters in a recent Op Ed published in another major US newspaper. “The most glaring truth which Imam Rauf and his supporters seem not to accept is that Islam's gangsters fear that America has it right: that we as a pluralistic and secular society have perfected the very system Islam's Holy Scriptures urged them to learn and practice. They want to build their mosques as symbols of Muslim power and glory in America, next to the symbols of American power the 9/11 hijackers tore down, not because they have understood that America is in its core beliefs and practices a nation which embodies the best Islam has to offer, but they seek to take undue credit for what they are no longer capable of doing themselves”

Mr. Kristoff says that the worst brutality in the Middle East has often been committed by more secular rulers like Saddam Hussein and Hafez aL-Assad. These two dictatorial rulers never once declared themselves or their regimes to be secular. Fully 97% of the Iraqis and 90% of the Syrians are Muslim. If a believer declares himself to be Muslim, which mortal has the authority to determine he or she is not one? Otherwise there would be no purpose in having any apostasy laws in Muslim countries. While the author is correct to say that George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine masterminded the 1970 airline hijackings, his involvement in the whole terrorist movement in the last 40 years represents but a drop in the bucket in the scheme of things related to not only worldwide terrorism, but also in the anarchy that is prevalent in certain parts of West and South Asia alone.

Mr. Kristoff has got it terribly wrong when he says “some of the most shocking brutality was justified by the Bible.” On the contrary, the Crusaders who sacked the Holy land were contravening the teachings of the Bible in multiple ways. While two wrongs do not make a right, it is a fact that the inhabitants of Jerusalem and much of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa – were Christians for centuries until they were invaded, and converted by Muslim Arabs not long after Islam was founded by their Prophet in the seventh century. The magnitude of the brutality committed by the victorious forces over the vanquished in the numerous wars of conquest that ensued was far worse than the massacre perpetrated by their kindred when they sacked Constantinople on May 29, 1453. According to the great historian of the Crusades-Sir Steven Runciman, the invaders “slew everyone they met in the streets, men, women and children without discrimination. The blood ran in rivers down the steep streets from the heights of Petra toward the Golden Horn.” In most civilizations tradition and religion are entwined. Nevertheless one cannot discount the reality of people of extremely minority religions from emulating the customs and traditions of the overwhelming majority community to escape discrimination and/or intimidation-or even just for acceptance. Sometimes it is necessary to do this to even survive as a community. Be that it may, the single example of honor killing threat in a Christian family alluded to by the writer, could very well be an isolated event. One swallow does not make a summer!

Republicans who say “it is not a matter of religious tolerance but sensitivity to the feelings of relatives to those killed at ground zero” are relating to one incident in one location. They are not calling for any kind of definite or indefinite countrywide prohibition like the kind practiced in Saudi Arabia, nor are they advocating Government intervention in the matter. Comparing them to “Saudi officials who ban churches, and even confiscate Bibles out of sensitivity to local feelings” is utterly irrational.

Let common sense and goodwill prevail.

Mat Mathews